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Be a Santa program helps give gifts to seniors

MORRIS – Jewel-Osco shoppers in Morris have the chance to be Santa for 80 local seniors this Christmas through the Be a Santa to a Senior program.

“Maybe their friends have all passed away or their families are somewhere else – we don’t want to forget about them,” said Gail Gander, client care coordinator for Home Instead Senior Care and organizer of the program.

The program – sponsored by Home Instead Senior Care – provides gifts and companionship to local seniors who otherwise may not receive either this holiday season.

Participating stores have put up Christmas trees with ornaments that list names of seniors and what they need. Shoppers can take an ornament and purchase a gift for the senior. The gifts should be left unwrapped at the store’s service desk.

Six Christmas trees are set up in stores throughout Grundy, LaSalle, Putnam and Bureau counties. In Grundy, the Be a Santa to a Senior tree is located inside Jewel-Osco on Division Street. Trees were put up Nov. 19 and will be taken down by Dec. 16.

“We hope to have all of the gifts by next Wednesday so they can be ready for the wrapping party,” said Laurie Krischel, client care coordinator for Peru Home Instead Senior Care and program organizer for Grundy County.

At all six locations, there will be wrapping parties held by local volunteer organizations. In Grundy County, fellow seniors from Park Pointe Senior Living Center will wrap the presents at a Dec. 12 party.

“We reached out to them about having the party and they were thrilled to do it,” Krischel said. “It should be a lot of fun. It will be seniors wrapping for seniors.”

Last year, 500 gifts were delivered through the program. This year, there are 550 names, with 80 of them in Grundy County.

“The support from people in the community has been tremendous,” Gander said.

Gander said names of seniors in need are received from local organizations, and organizers work to ensure anonymity.

“Those getting gifts won’t know who it is from,” Gander said.

Krischel said she has delivered the gifts in previous years and has found the seniors’ reactions to be heartwarming.

“They are so overjoyed. They often ask who it is from so they can thank them,” Krischel said. “All we tell them is that it’s from Santa.”

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